How to Decide on the Best CDL Driving School near Anchorage Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Anchorage AK. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent wages and flexible work opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are several factors that you'll need to consider before making your final choice. Location will certainly be important, especially if you have to commute from your Anchorage home. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based only on price is not the best means to make sure you'll get the appropriate education. Don't forget, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Is Required?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Anchorage AK, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief summaries of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. A few of the vehicles that operators may be able to drive with Class A licenses are:
- Interstate or Intrastate Tractor Trailers
- Trucks with Double or Triple Trailers
- Tanker Trucks
- Livestock Carriers
- Class B and Class C Vehicles
Class B CDL. A Class B CDL is required to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Several of the vehicles that drivers may be qualified to operate with Class B licenses are:
- Tractor Trailers
- Dump Trucks
- Cement Mixers
- Large Buses
- Class C Vehicles
Both Class A and Class B CDLs might also require endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Evaluate a Trucker School
Once you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Anchorage AK trucking schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other issues, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So below are some more factors that you should research while conducting your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driver schools in the Anchorage AK area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will measure up to the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Anchorage AK schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alaska licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alaska and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the instructors in the next section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the personalized instruction they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that insists it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Anchorage AK schools provide training programs that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As already mentioned, it's imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the instructors stay up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors may be a little more subjective than other standards, and possibly the ideal approach is to check out the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Above all else, a great trucking school will provide ample driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no substitute for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time varies among schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Anchorage AK schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive free or discounted training from some truck driving schools if you make a commitment to drive for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Anchorage AK schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Alaska, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alaska testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As formerly mentioned, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief duration, it's important that the Anchorage AK school you choose provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to start your new career. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Anchorage AK employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Anchorage AK area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.
Select the Right Anchorage AK Truck Driving Training
Choosing the right trucking school is an important first step to starting your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. However, you must get the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you may want to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you get your training, you will soon be entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Anchorage AK.